Margarita's International Recipes


Jerusalem Lamb Shawarma

Jerusalem Lamb Shawarma

This recipe requires overnight marination and slow cooking

Shawarma, meats cooked in rotating spits and sliced very thinly, are eaten throughout the Middle East, so it's not surprising they've were adopted in Israel. This cook at home version comes from Israeli-born British restaurateur and chef, Yotam Ottolenghi. The marinade, made from a Lebanese-style spice mixture, gives the lamb an amazing flavor. The lamb, however, came out too dry. I wonder if the lamb legs we get in the supermarket here just don't have enough fat to make this dish work. I noticed dryness was a common complaint in the reviews.

The marinade calls for some exotic spices - sumac, fenugreek seeds, star anise - though thanks to my international food project I actually had them all at home. While I'm sure they all add something, I wouldn't sweat it if I had to skip them. I would like to try this marinade on chicken, which I'd then cook in the rotisserie t home - honestly, I didn't think I could have done the same with the lamb leg.


Jerusalem Lamb Shawarma


  • 3/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 3" ginger root, peeled and grated
  • 1 Tbsp sumac
  • 3/4 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup peanut or walnut oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime or lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cardamon pods
  • 1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 star anise
  • 2" cinnamon stick
  • 1 Tbsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 Tbsp sweet paprika
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 bone-in leg of lamb, about 6 lbs.
  • 1 cup boiling water


Place the cilantro, crushed garlic, grated ginger, sumac and kosher salt in a small or medium mixing bowl, set aside.

Heat an iron skillet over medium heat and add the cumin seeds, peppercorns, fennel seeds, cardamon pods, fenugreek seeds, cloves, star anise and cinnamon stick. Heat for one to two minutes, stirring to make sure the spices don't burn. Add the nutmeg, paprika and ginger and cook until warmed through. Transfer spices to a grinder and grind until smooth. Add spice mixture to the bowl with the cilantro mixture and mix well.

Cut deep slits all over the lamb. Transfer the lamb to a roasting pan and rub marinade all over, making sure it goes into the slits. Place the lamb fat side up and cover the pan with aluminum foil. Let rest on the counter for 2 hours or refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Uncover and place in the oven. Roast for 30 minutes and add a cup of boiling water to the pan. Roast for another 30 minutes, baste and then roast for 30 minutes more and baste again. You may need to add more water to the pan after basting each time. Cover again, and cook for another 1-3 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 130°F, basting every half hour. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes. Carve into thin slices.

Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi's recipe in The New York Times

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